The Arizona Hotshots will look to change their fortune on Sunday night as they welcome in the San Antonio Commanders to Sun Devil Stadium for a key matchup in the AAF West. After being the preseason favorite to win the AAF title, the Hotshots have been on a roller-coaster ride. The first two weeks, the Hotshots, along with the Orlando Apollos looked like the two teams to beat. However, the last two weeks have seen the Hotshots drop two consecutive games to the previously winless teams of the Salt Lake Stallions and the Atlanta Legends. Needless to say, the Hotshots find themselves at a crossroads, and it will be important for them to bounce back this week if they want a chance at home field advantage for the first round of the AAF playoffs. Let’s examine the factors that will be key if the Hotshots want to get back into the win column Sunday night.
Shutdown Kenneth Farrow
— San Antonio Commanders (@aafcommanders) March 6, 2019
While much of the alliance has continued to consistently run the ball, Kenneth Farrow has been a man among boys. Farrow is currently 2nd in the AAF in rushing yards on the season with 280 yards and has scored 2 touchdowns, including a stat line last week of 30 carries for 142 yards. This must be mission number 1 because the Hotshots struggled with both Denard Robinson and Taurean Folston at running back for the Legends last week. The Hotshots struggled both in the run stopping game and stopping Folston out of the backfield as a receiver. If the Hotshots allow Farrow to have the kind of day he had against the Birmingham Iron last week, Arizona may be looking a third consecutive loss.
Chance Hotshots Shutdown Kenneth Farrow: Not Likely
Get John Wolford Rolling Again
Three takeaways from #ATLvsAZ
— Arizona Hotshots (@aafhotshots) March 5, 2019
If you look at John Wolford’s stats from last weeks lost to Atlanta, they’re not necessarily bad; they’re just average. In order for the Hotshots to have success on offense, John Wolford has to be better than average. Wolford managed a stat line of 17/31, 185 yards, 1 touchdown, and 0 interceptions. Obviously, the no interceptions part is great, but the Hotshots rely on a fast offensive tempo which requires a quarterback to have a passing percentage that is at least 65%+ to be fully effective. The Commanders run a 3-4 base defense where they love to clog the middle of the field with linebackers in deep zone coverage if the Hotshots can be patient and work the perimeter with players like Rashad Ross and use the talented running back stable of Justin Stockton and Jhurell Pressley as receivers out of the backfield, the Hotshots, could get their offense in rhythm and become hard to stop. However, if Wolford has a hard time consistently completing passes, this game could turn into an ugly field position game which is not the strength of the Hotshots.
Chance John Wolford Gets Rolling Again: Likely
Time of Possession
In an era where many teams are focused on getting off as many plays as possible, the pesky old school stat of time of possession continues to bite the Hotshots. The last two weeks time of possession has been a nightmare that has kept the Arizona Hotshots in check. Arizona would prefer games where they can run 65+ plays and be able to have a game in the ’20s or ’30s. However, other teams have figured out this strategy and have learned to play keep away from the Hotshots offense. In their loss to the Atlanta Legends last week, the Hotshots lost the time of possession battle 37:49 to 22:11. That is an unbelievable disadvantage and one that cannot happen again if the Hotshots want to rebound. Unfortunately for the Hotshots, the Commanders can be a ball control team when they want to be. The Commanders managed to hold on to the ball more than the Birmingham Iron last week who may be the prime example of ball control offense in the AAF. If the Commanders can win the ball control battle with the Iron, this may be bad news for the Hotshots time of possession fortune this week.
Chance Time of Possession Plays A Factor: Likely
Force Logan Woodside Turnovers
"I’m just excited for this next game. We know it’s a big game against a really good opponent. We just have to lock in." – @LwoodsideQB5
— San Antonio Commanders (@aafcommanders) March 8, 2019
San Antonio Commanders quarterback Logan Woodside has been a lightning rod of controversy for fans this year. Woodside shows a lot of confidence in his arm and ability to make special plays. However, Woodside has also been prone to making huge mistakes such as their week three debacle against the San Diego Fleet. On the season, Woodside is 61/123, 735 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions, including a pedestrian 11/25, 106 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions performance against the stingy Birmingham Iron last week. Despite the poor performance against Birmingham, he did manage the game well and did not turn the ball over. Woodside doesn’t have to be elite for the Commanders to win, he just can’t get in the way with turning the ball over. Despite the struggles of the Arizona secondary last week, the unit overall is solid and should be able to force Woodside into his usual mistakes again this week. This is the main factor where the Hotshots have an advantage, and it will be essential for them to capitalize if they want to win.
Chance Hotshots Force Logan Woodside Turnovers: Likely
Take Advantage of Scoring Opportunities
This last factor isn’t so much of statistical analysis as it is noticing trends. The trend is that it is difficult to score in the AAF. In a day and age where football has become track meets in most leagues, the AAF has flipped this thought upside down. Arizona must take advantage of every scoring opportunity that presents itself, for an aggressive team like the Hotshots that may mean scaling things back and accepting that 3 points are better than no points. Special teams could be huge in setting up the Hotshots for scoring opportunities. The kicking game, punting, and the punt return game is mostly overlooked weapons that have become essential in the AAF. In a game that is expected to be extremely competitive, a special teams player like Nick Folk or a smart coaching decision by Rick Neuheisel could be the small difference in a win or loss for the Hotshots. The Hotshots must value every opportunity and get back in the business of converting opportunities into points if they want to win. Fortunately for the Hotshots, I believe they find a way to rebound from an embarrassing loss to Atlanta by taking command of San Antonio.
Chance Hotshots Take Advantage of Scoring Opportunities: 50/50